Can we be too self-aware?

In this podcast (episode #482) and blog, I talk about self-awareness, why it is helpful, and what happens when we become too self-aware.  

As you have heard me say many times on this podcast, we need to self-regulate what we think, say and do. This is key to living a life of mind management and learning how to deal with the many ups and downs of life. 

However, it is possible to be too self-aware. This happens when we start trying to intellectualize away our feelings and emotions rather than learning from them. We have to feel so we can heal—trying to rationalize away how we experience life can be as harmful as suppressing or ignoring uncomfortable emotions. 

Unfortunately, we can even end up using helpful therapy language like “boundaries”, “inner child” and many other aspects of getting to know ourselves to avoid dealing with the messiness of life. This is common, especially when we start doing the work of healing and becoming self-aware.  

The thing we need to remember is that we cannot run from or intellectualize away the messiness of life. We need to allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable emotions, and give ourselves grace and space to work through them. It’s okay not to have the right words or logic at first. The healing process cannot be put in a box—it takes time, can be messy and is sometimes not what we expect.  

Healing means unpacking the often-overwhelming nature of emotions so that we can start making connections between our feelings or reactions to life experiences and our memories. This helps us better understand ourselves and gives us perspective.  

However, when we get so good at that therapy talk and reasoning that we begin to intellectualize all our emotions rather than feeling through them, we can become too self-aware. We need to remind ourselves that our emotions are not “less than” our logic. They are equally important as our reasoning and intellect—they are an intrinsic part of being human. We need to be careful of intellectualizing our feelings too much as a way to avoid the hard work of actually processing through our emotions. Working through our issues requires a combination of actually feeling the pain and emotions but also working through them.  

A great way to practice this is by balancing becoming aware of your emotions and experiencing them with understanding why you feel the way you do and why you are acting the way you are. To do this, I recommend using the Neurocycle mind management method I have developed and studied over the past three decades, which I discuss in detail in my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and my app Neurocycle. The Neurocycle is a way to harness your thinking power that I have developed and researched over the past three decades. It has 5 steps:  

1) Gather awareness of how you feel. This starts with understanding the signals that the mind, brain, and body send you when you are going through something. These signals alert you TO protect you.   

There are four main signals: your emotions, your behaviors, your physical symptoms, and your perspective/outlook. Some examples are: 

  • Feelings of irritability and/or hopelessness (an emotional warning signal)
  • Ignoring calls, texts or emails (a behavioral warning signal)
  • The world feels more negative (a perspective warning signal)
  • Muscle aches and/or pains (a physical warning signal)  

We all experience emotions and feelings in different ways under different circumstances—they can keep changing even in the space of one day or hour. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you if you feel you’re “exploding” with emotions! You’re simply experiencing something that needs urgent attention.

2) Reflect on how you feel. Why do you think you feel this way?  

3) Write down your reflections to help organize your thinking.  

4) Recheck: think about what your thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you. What does it say about how you view the situation/issue? What is your “antidote”—how will you take the sting out of your story? Look for clues in your writing, then start to reframe/reconceptualize the way you are thinking about what happened to you. 

5) Do your active reach. This is a thought or action you need to practice daily to help you reconceptualize what you thought about in the previous step – that is, practice seeing the feelings differently to change the way they affect your wellbeing. 

Step 1 of this process (gather awareness) helps you honor your emotions by allowing you to feel and be honest about what you are experiencing. Steps 2-4 then help you do the “intellectualizing” while still honoring your emotions (as information telling you about what is going on in your life), which helps you connect the dots and find ways to move forward and heal (steps 4 and 5).  

For more on respecting your emotions and self-awareness, listen to my podcast (episode #482). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).  

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This podcast is sponsored by: 

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Podcast Highlights  

1:38 What self-awareness is 

2:30 What happens when we become too self-aware 

8:05 Why intellectualizing away our emotions is not helpful 

9:00, 19:32 How to balance your emotions & self-awareness using mind management 

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional. 

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